What are the best music recording and producing programs out there? There are a lot to choose from, so we whittle it down to the very best and what makes them great in our list of the best music production programs in 2021.
A brand new year means it is time to take a look at the world of music production tools and see how it all stands with a new year ahead of us. We could create an endless list with all of the great music software available but we’ve tried to limit our list to the best 10 around right now.
If your favourite isn’t on the list, let us know what it is in the comments below and tell us why you love it. Now – in no particular order – here are our top DAWs for 2021.
FL Studio is by far the favourite among the producers we work with. An incredibly intuitive design means that even the most amateur of music makers can jump right in and start putting beats together.
FL Studio presents you with a simple sample and plugin sequencing tool that makes it easy to create drum loops and sequences that you can drag and drop into your timeline. An easy to use piano roll also means that creating melodies and chords note by note is fast and immediately listenable.
FL Studio is the perfect DAW for getting started out with but is also much loved by professional producers and musicians for its fast yet surprisingly deep and powerful interface.
Ableton Live is one of the most widely used DAWs around. It has two workflows that appeal to different approaches to music making and can be combined to great effect.
Arrangement and Session views offer two ways to create: either layer loops and sounds together with live editing of each element and easy switching between sounds and loops, or use a traditional timeline to record and produce tracks. Using Session view you can record your live looping straight into Arrangement view to edit, mix and master.
Session view makes Ableton a favourite for live DJing and jamming out beats whilst it’s extensive array of plugins, sounds, and mixing options make it a top choice for recording and producing full tracks. Ableton Live 11 launches very soon with many more exciting new features being added to the world favourite DAW.
Cubase is a favourite for many from huge studio professionals creating top hits or soundtracks in hollywood blockbusters, to bedroom musicians and students just getting started in recording music.
Cubase’s accessible UI makes it easy to get into and Cubase has been created with streamlining workflows in mind. Simple colour-coding techniques and timeline layouts make it a breeze to work with whilst power under the hood and endless editing functions hidden in menus offers producers a huge array of powerful tools to mix and master with.
Cubase 11 launched recently bringing even more enhancements like advanced audio exporting, a brand new sampling tool, advanced key editing, and much more.
Garageband is a uniquely free piece of music software that is surprisingly versatile and capable of some great creations. It comes from Apple and as such you can only get it if you’re using Apple devices, but those who are on Mac or iOS then you are in for a great surprise with this app.
Garageband makes it incredibly simple to play out your ideas in a fun and effortless way. Accessible to everyone, it is packed full of virtual instruments that are a joy to play and the interface makes recording and layering simple.
Depending on what device you’re using Garageband on, you can make use of touch instruments on mobile devices, scrolling the timeline and chopping samples with your Mac’s Touch Bar, and more. It is also surprisingly efficient for general music recording and is a favourite for on-the-go musicians who can easily pick up their projects on their mobile devices and go to work.
The older sibling of Garageband, this is Apple’s fully fledged and studio-ready DAW. This program has a very familiar interface for those who have used Garageband but it is packed with many more features that make it a far superior professional music making engine.
Logic Pro is a studio favourite for engineers around the world but is also packed full of features that make it great for the home producers and musicians. Live Loops give a real time canvas to improvise and create using samples and loops whilst their step sequencer makes building beats smooth.
Of course that Apple integration extends to Logic Pro X and as such allows users to control their sessions using iPad and iPhones.
Cockos’ Reaper is a surprising DAW that many people seem to overlook, but on the other side of the track a lot of people love this software. Reaper wins on price with an incredibly well built interface that makes visually arranging your tracks a breeze.
Despite it’s low price, Reaper has all you’d expect from a professional DAW with full MIDI and audio recording support, loads of effects and plugins, and tools a-plenty to mix and master your music with. It’s also built to work incredibly fast and can handle lots of processing at a time without slowdown.
MOTU’s DP is short for Digital Performer not, uhhh… that other thing. Digital Performer is a fully fledged DAW that is very nice to look at and has recently received a huge update with DP10 that introduced what are now some of its best features.
Their new Clips window is their answer to Ableton’s Session view. It gives you a display full of clips and samples that you can stack and edit to trigger live for creating layers on the fly. Whilst their new Clips tool has become an immediate fan favourite for MOTU’s DP users, beneath that there is all you’d expect from a full DAW.
One of Digital Performer’s most unique features is its tempo and beat control using their own Beat Detection technology. You can totally manipulate your audio once the program has detected the timing within your beats and samples.
Studio One creators, PreSonus, say that it was designed to put unbridled power in the hands of anyone with ease of use as a priority. Using virtual instruments, effects, unique arrangement tools and a Score View based on their award winning Notion app; Studio One offers loads of potential to create and play.
It uses three different ‘Pages’ to provide you the tools you need for the different stages of your music making. The Song Page gives you everything you need to record, compose, edit and mix your tracks. Then take your creations into the Project Page for the mastering stage. Finally, if you want to take your work to a live performance then their new Show Page lets you control live instruments in a set-list on the fly.
Studio One packs a lot of power but aims to put all of it’s possibility in your hands simply so that it doesn’t overwhelm you and simply guides you through the creative process.
Pro Tools is renowned through the industry as one of the top programs to work with and its impressive offering comes at an incredible price. The program is capable of performing all steps of recording, producing, and mastering to a high quality with loads of functionality along the way to aid in the process and provide the tools you need for all you want to do to it.
Avid’s software thrives in its unique platform features like Avid Cloud; which allows creators to collaborate on projects from anywhere with an internet connection no matter how far they are. Pro Tools is also beloved for its impressive post-production capabilities which make it a favourite for film makers and TV producers; so just imagine what it can do for your music.
The latest version of Pro Tools introduced some exciting new features like Audio-to-MIDI functions, new sounds with Melodyne 5 essentials, and more.
Pro Tools is available for as little as $29.99 for its basic package, and that’s only $9.99 for students and teachers.
Propellorhead’s Reason can look intimidating to the uninitiated because it is so full of tools and ways to use them. It’s visually unparalleled and for the true music geeks there’s nothing quite like it, with amazing virtual rack modules, impressive plugin models, and more to feast your eyes on as though you’re working with physical modules.
Full of synthesisers, samples, sequencers, mixers and so much more; Reason is a delight to explore. Reason comes with more than 70 instruments and effects to start with and then there is a wealth of additions you can explore and purchase to add to your collection from their shop.